School of Theology looks to future with first female dean

Dr. Maria Pascuzzi is the first female associate dean for undergraduate students in the School of Theology.

Since starting her job on July 1, 2017, Pascuzzi said she has enjoyed her role of advising students and guiding them on the right path.

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Emma Coulter, a senior theology major, said she sees Pascuzzi as a compassionate, reliable adviser.
“She genuinely cares about my education and how I’m doing,” Coulter said. “She makes me feel safe, and I can go to her for everything.”

Fellow senior theology major Kristen Gawlik noted that Pascuzzi’s efficiency and care for each student was evident from the start. When Gawlik needed assistance making her class schedule balance with her work schedule Pascuzzi helped her.

As associate dean for undergraduates, Pascuzzi wants to prioritize bringing the theology program into the public view.

While people may view Lewis Hall as off limits or just for priests, she explained that their doors are open to everyone in the University.

Pascuzzi defined theology as faith seeking understanding. She said that theology’s underlying basis involves helping people who have faith understand why they have it. It is the root for explaining why people have certain beliefs and live the way they do.

“My job is to be a public face for our program and to invite people to come in,” she said. “This is not an exclusive little world for priests; it’s a world where anybody who would like to think more seriously about their faith can come and ask questions.”

Gawlik called Pascuzzi a much needed asset to the program.

“She brings a perspective to the School of Theology that exemplifies so much that is key to passing on our Catholic faith,” Gawlik said. “I think this is beneficial for both seminarians as well as lay theology students seeking to serve the Church.”

As a female dean in a male-dominant environment, her goal is to get more women involved in the program. She said she wanted to model what it means to be a seeker of understanding about the faith.

Pascuzzi traced the imbalanced ratio in learning about theology back to when she was in graduate school. She received her Doctorate in Biblical Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy and her License in Sacred Scripture from The Pontifical Biblical Institute, in Rome, Italy.

“It was kind of a man’s world when I went to school in Rome,” Pascuzzi said. “I was the only woman in my class, but it didn’t matter. I knew that I was a woman, but I could do anything that a man could do.”

Coulter noted Pascuzzi’s drive to constantly improve the program and make it fruitful for both laypeople and seminarians. As a woman, Pascuzzi offers a different perspective in her role, according to Coulter.

Her plans include working hard to get scholarships set aside just for women to study theology at SHU. The School of Theology has arranged a scholarship for a woman from Vietnam who has lived in the states for two years to study here.

In December, Pascuzzi will be leading a group of women to Jerusalem for a study tour.

“It’s very close to my heart,” she said. “We all need priests, but we need other people, too. All of us have a role to play. I’ve only been here for a year, but I have a lot of energy for this role.”

Kristel Domingo can be reached at kristel.domingo@student.shu.edu.

Author: Kristel Domingo

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